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OLATHE, Kan. — In an effort to balance the books, the Olathe School District will be cutting staff positions and trimming out roughly $20 million from next year’s budget 

According to a press release issued by the district, the budget challenges spurred from a decline in enrollment, a decrease in tax revenue and an increase in operational costs brought on by the pandemic. 

More than a dozen library clerk positions have been eliminated in middle school and high schools for the 2022-2023 school year. Earlier this month the district announced it would close the Olathe Virtual School (OVS) at the end of the year. 

It’s unclear what the full extent of the budget cuts will be, but school officials say all schools and departments across the district will be affected. 

Student enrollment

Despite years of steady growth, Olathe schools saw a decrease in enrollment during the pandemic. The district saw enrollment drop by roughly 3.5% (1,055 students) in 2020. So far, the district has recovered about half of those students, with fall 2021 enrollment sitting at 29,794 students.

As a result, the district plans to cut roughly 6% of the annual operations budget next year. 

Extraordinary growth fund

A decrease in tax revenue has also played a large role in the district’s need to tighten the budget. 

A school district can apply to the Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) to levy additional property tax to help finance the cost of operating a new school building through the extraordinary growth fund. 

Money collected through a property tax mill levy is issued to school districts as new schools are opened. The amount of funding a district receives is weighted based on the cost of operating the building. The funding amount will steadily decrease over a set period of time.

According to Johnson County tax records, the extraordinary growth fund mill rate for Olathe Schools has dropped from 7.8 in 2018 to 6.1 in 2021. 

USD 233 has built three new schools in the last five years: Olathe West High School, Summit Trail Middle School and Canyon Creek Elementary School. 

Despite support for the $298 million bond to replace Santa Fe Trail Middle School, the district doesn’t intend to build any new schools in the near future. That means soon the district will stop receiving money from the growth fund. Growth funds are expected to decline by approximately $7 million for the 2022-2023 school year. 

During a Board of Education meeting on March 3, Deputy Superintendent John Hutchison said BOTA funds will continue to decline for the next six years. 

“We ended last year [with a] $7 million impact on our reserves. We have lower enrollment. We’ve lost at-risk weighting. This is going to be a challenging year for our budget,” Hutchison said.

What’s next? 

District staff plan to recommend development goals and a calendar outline for the 2022-2023 budget to the school board during the next regular meeting on April 7.

A draft of the 2022-2023 budget is expected later this summer, with the board finalizing the budget in September. 

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